Title: THE TRAVELING CAMERA: Lewis Hine and the Fight to End Child Labor
Written by: Alexandra Hinrichs
Illustrated by: Michael Garland
Getty Publications, September 2021
For ages: 6-9
Themes/topics: child labor, photography, Lewis Hine, social reform, National Child Labor Committee (NCLC)
If I could tell the story
I wouldn’t need to lug
But a picture speaks
its own language,
one most folks,
young and old,
A picture tells
a big story
in a small space,
can shine light
in a shadowed place.
So I carry a camera,
a heavy load
for a featherweight
and my camera
This picture book chronicles the travels of Lewis Hine, who used his camera to document child labor in the 20th century.
Stunning visuals and poetic text combine to tell the inspiring story of Lewis Hine (1874–1940), a teacher and photographer who employed his art as a tool for social reform. Working for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), Hine traveled the country, taking pictures of children as young as five toiling under dangerous conditions in cotton mills, seafood canneries, farms, and coal mines. He often wore disguises to sneak into factories, impersonating a machinery inspector or traveling salesman. He said, “If I could tell this story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug a camera.” His poignant pictures attracted national attention and were instrumental in the passage of child labor laws. The Traveling Camera includes extensive back matter with timelines, original photographs, and a bibliography.
Why I highly recommend this book:
I had the opportunity to read an advance copy of this picture book and I found it deeply moving. The text is lyrical and evocative, and I am in awe of how seamlessly author Alexandra Hinrichs wove words written by Lewis himself (in italics) with those she invented based on his “many letters, reports, and photo captions.” The result feels authentic and is filled with both heart and humor.
As a lover of photography and an amateur photographer myself, I was fascinated by this tale of how Lewis Hine used his photography to effectively enlighten the nation and push for social change. It required some serious ingenuity and bravery. Hinrichs captures this beautifully with vivid lines like, “I’m fixing to write down facts so people will believe what their eyes don’t want to see. I’ve measured from the floor to each button on my coat to reckon heights and ages. I’ve invented a waterproof nonsinkable reason in advance to outwit the guardians I am up against. At the cotton mill, I tell the overseer The Company sent me to take pictures of broken machinery. He believes me, lets me inside.”
I was also charmed by the illustrations and appreciated the very thorough back matter, especially the inclusion of many of Lewis Hine’s original photographs. This truly inspiring story is a must-read for both kids and adults!
(For a colossal collection of picture book reviews, please visit this page on Susanna’s site: http://susannahill.com/for-teachers-and-parents/perfect-picture-books/.)